Controversy lands at feet of new corrections chief
Gov. Jerry Brown's new prison chief walks into a firestorm, including news of the early release of a Fresno felon who opened fire on co-workers this week and the potential mass release from state supervision of thousands of parolees who have gone missing.
Brown on Friday named Martin Hoshino as acting secretary of corrections, and Daniel Stone, a long-time parole department employee, as director of the division of adult parole. Hoshino, previously the undersecretary of administration and offender services, will temporarily fill the vacancy created by Matthew Cate's departure to head the California State Assn. of Counties.
Stone's appointment will require Senate confirmation and could become a platform for what critics say is a push by Brown's administration to move felons out of state supervision despite the risk to public safety.
On Friday, the Fresno Bee reported that gunman Lawrence Jones was released from parole in May despite the objection of his parole agent, who deemed him a "danger to this community." This week Jones allegedly opened fire at the chicken processing plant where he worked, killing two people and then himself. Two other co-workers were shot but survived.
At the same time, a state corrections department memo outlines a blanket review of arrest warrants for 10,000 parolees who have disappeared over the years. The program requires agents to decide if "remaining on state parole would not be in the interest of justice." Sex offenders are not included in the review.
"It's mass amnesty for felons," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Biggs), a vocal opponent of Brown's prison realignment program.
Under the new law, nonviolent felons are eligible for parole review every six months instead of after a year. Also, parole agents are pushed to release felons at those early reviews, said Todd Gillam, a parole agent who is vice president of the Parole Agent Assn. of California, adding, "I think they've gone too far and are jeopardizing public safety."
-- Paige St. John in Sacramento